Article 35A of the Indian Constitution is an article that empowers the Jammu and Kashmir state’s legislature to define “permanent residents” of the state and provide special rights and privileges to those permanent residents. It has created a political conundrum in J&K.
An NGO, allegedly close to the RSS, recently filed a writ petition in the Supreme Court requesting Article 35A’s abrogation. The PIL, filed by a Delhi-based NGO ‘We the citizens’, had sought Article 35A to be declared unconstitutional, contending the President could not have amended the Constitution by the 1954-order and it was supposed to be a temporary provision.
It said the J&K government, under the guise of Article 35A and Article 370 which grants special autonomous status to the state, has been discriminating against nonresidents who are debarred from buying properties, getting a government job or voting in the local elections.
A Kashmiri woman, Charu Wali Khan, recently filed a petition seeking changes in the constitutional provision as she wanted succession rights though she is settled outside the state.
Responding to her plea, the Supreme Court sent notices to the Centre and state last month. The woman has argued that the state’s laws, flowing from Article 35A, has disenfranchised her. Advocate general K Venugopal told the bench of Chief Justice J S Khehar and Justice D Y Chandrachud that the petition against Article 35A raised “very sensitive” questions that required a “larger debate”.
The BJP in its Assembly election manifesto had promised that it would give voting rights to all the settlers in Jammu and would also give land at cheap rates to retired Army officials in all the major towns of J&K.
Surinder Ambardar, BJP MLC from the state claimed, “Article 35A is a constitutional mistake. It was incorporated into a presidential order and not through the parliamentary process.”
The court referred the matter to a three-judge bench and has set a six-week deadline for final disposal. The bench is likely to deliver its verdict in September 1st week.